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In June of 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster (in Vancouver, Canada) voted to authorize a service to bless same-sex unions. J. I. Packer was among the synod members who walked out in protest, and he explained why in an article for Christianity Today. The lede summarized his rationale: “Why did I walk out with the others? Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.”

On Feb. 13, 2008, Packer’s church, St. John's Shaughnessy in Vancouver (at 760 members, the largest church in the Anglican Church of Canada), voted to leave the ACC and to align with a more orthodox branch in Argentina: the Province of the Southern Cone.

On Feb. 22, 2008, Michael Ingham, Bishop of the New Westminster Diocese, sent a letter to Packer (who has been an honorary assistant at St. John’s for over 20 years) and other clergy serving a Notice of Presumption of Abandonment of the Exercise of the Ministry under Canon XIX, based on (1) publicly renouncing the doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada; and (2) having sought or intending to seek admission into another religious body outside the Anglican Church of Canada.
If they do not dispute these facts by April 21, 2008, their authority as ministers of the Word and Sacrament (conferred at their ordinations) will be revoked.

Ted Olsen
writes: “Frankly, this story isn’t terribly newsworthy in the traditional sense. It’s predictable, and any suspension would be irrelevant. Packer will continue his ministry just as he has been doing since he left the diocese.” Olsen continues: “The possible suspension of Packer may create a bit of a problem for both the Archbishop of Canada and the Archbishop of Canterbury given the reaction that could be expected from many parts of the Communion. It also has potential to make non-Anglican evangelicals worldwide more interested in the Anglican crisis. ”

St John's put together a DVD (perhaps an hour and a half in length) for their congregation to explain what has happened and why. Journalist Susan Martinuk interviews the rector, Rev. David Short, and Dr. Packer.

The DVD has been broken into 10 parts and posted on YouTube (you can view all of the videos here.)

Because, frankly, I have not been very familiar with the Anglican structure and the ins-and-outs of the controversy, I took a few notes on Rev. Short’s interviews, which may be helpful as a kind of Anglican Reallignment Crash Course for Dummies:

All the different Anglican churches in an area gather in a diocese; over the diocese the head pastor is a bishop. In a geographical area (like British Columbia) a group of dioceses form together, and one of their bishops is elected to be archbishop. Canada together is called a province, and one of the archbishops is elected to be a primate. Each province has a primate. The primates meet once every two years. The Archbishop of Canterbury is "first among equals" and calls together the Lambeth Conference.

The Anglican Communion is a global body made up of 38 interdependent provinces (i.e., national churches). (Canada is a province; the US is a province; Kenya is a province; England is a province; New Zealand is a province; etc.) The global communion is, at it were, 38 ships that are all chained together in the historic faith that we have received in the Scriptures, that is expressed in the creeds, in the formularies of the Anglican Church. We are a flotilla of 38 ships sailing toward, say, England. Since 2002, two of the independent provinces [US and Canada] have decided that we are going to sail in a different direction, say, Australia. So the chain that binds all these provinces together is being stretched and stretched. The ships are calling on two of the ships--Canada and the US--to turn around and head in the historic direction that the church has been heading.

In 2003, the primates said that if Canada and the US continued, they will have torn the fabric, broken the chains--so much so that many of these provinces have said we are going to have to cut the chains and allow those two ships to go their own way. The polite Anglican language to speak about that is "to walk apart."

Many of us in Canada and the US don't want to go to Australia. We believe that the direction set for us in the Scriptures and in the historic church is the right direction and God has not changed his mind. We want to be part of the global communion, sailing in this direction.

What's happening now is that a number of orthodox groups are being forced out of their provinces in Canada and the US, and the other provinces are coming along and saying, "You belong to us"--building links and chains, saying "We will take you with us." A little bit like a rescue option. It's unprecedented. Never before have two provinces sought to move away from the communion theologically, and never before has there been a rescue mission for those who want to belong to the rest of the church.

In the view of the majority of the communion, schism has taken place. 22 of 38 have indicated "completely broken" or "impaired" communion with Canada and the US. The reason it's taken 5 years to fall out is because the global communion has (rightly) wanted to be as patient and gracious and careful as possible, calling for moratoriums on same-sex unions. There is still the possibility that the churches in Canada and the US would turn back.

Same-sex unions is really an iceberg issue. 19/20 of the iceberg is below the water. Several issues rise above the water (same-sex blessings; the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ; etc.) What drives this disagreement is a different view of God, of the Bible, of what Jesus came to do, of what the church is all about. That's below the surface of the water. It's not so much interpretation of the Bible; it's the authority of the Bible--how the Word of God functions in the life of the ordinary believer.

Here are the clips from the interview with Packer:

Same-Sex Blessing

First-Order Issues

Implications for the Church

The Future of the Church

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15 thoughts on “J. I. Packer to Be Suspended from the Anglican Church of Canada”

  1. Glennsp says:

    I can understand the desire to not rush into schism, but I think that desire has allowed too much time to be given.
    It has been sadly obvious that there was going to be no return by the offending provinces for a long time now.
    This has been allowed to drag on for so long it has done unnecessary damage.
    The ‘Communion’ has been given more importance than standing by Biblical fidelity.
    Praise God for the so called ‘Southern Cone’. May God bless and strengthen them.

  2. Kenny says:

    What a marvelous quote! “I don’t want to believe it but I dare not disbelieve it” (speaking of the danger to the soul for unrepentant sin). Such honesty and faithfulness to the Gospel is refreshing and a damning endictment on those who are treatening Packer et. al. with expulsion.

  3. John says:

    “Blessed are you, when men shall persecute you for my sake…”

    God bless Mr. Packer.

  4. donsands says:

    Dr. Packer “speaks the truth in love”, and quite eloquently. Lord give him strength and boldness to keep on. Amen.

  5. Shane says:

    For those of you familiar with Iain H. Murray’s 2-part biography on Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the falling out between Lloyd-Jones and Packer…I wonder if Packer now “hears” his voice in the back of his head…”I told you so, my friend, I told you so.”

    I commend Packer for standing up to the Anglican Church. I know that that must have been quite difficult for him. His statements on repentance and the gospel were marvelous. I thank God for the Christ-like example that he has set for us all.

  6. Jerry says:

    “You can’t fire me, I already quit!”

    This sounds foolish when somebody says it five minutes before the axe falls, but makes plenty of sense when you quit years earlier.

    How can they kick Packer out of the church when they aren’t even in the church anymore?

  7. trogdor says:

    Does this make Packer officially Post-Anglican? If so, does that mean he needs to grow a soul patch and start saying “deconstruct” in seemingly random contexts?

  8. tc says:

    Thanks for this info, JT. I have nothing but respect for the renowned Dr. Packer. I have benefited so much from his writings, and I know others have.

    He would not have done something like that, if it was wrong to do so. God bless.

  9. Nick Hill says:

    This is really sad. I grew up in the liberal Anglican church in Canada. In fact, the chaplain at my boarding school, an ordained Anglican priest, denied the physical resurrection of Jesus, the Bible as God’s Word, and the deity of Christ. I heard the gospel through a Bible Camp. Thank God for that. I just read about the whole situation with St. John’s (Packer’s church) in the National Post (Canada’s National Conservative newspaper). I attended St. John’s while I was a student in the Vancouver area. The senior minister David Short, is one of the best expository preachers I have ever heard anywhere. After hearing a sermon there you treasured the Bible more, the gospel more, and ultimately the person of Christ more. I am so thankful for the faithfulness of that church’s ministers. Many have come to know Christ through their ministry. Do you know of any church that has two evangelists on staff?

  10. Nick Hill says:

    Here is the web address to the National Post Article featuring David Short, the senior minister at St. John’s (J.I. Packer’s church):

  11. huron says:

    The Anglican Church of Canada again confirmed at the General Synod in June 2007 that it prohibites same sex blessings. The Diocese of New Westminster is on Canada’s left coast and does not represent the Anglican Church of Canada.

  12. Jenn says:

    JI Packer rocks.

  13. John K says:

    J.I. Packer is still an Anglican, It is his diocese and bishop who have abanoned the faith.

    You must acknowledge that three other dioceses have voted their desire to proceed with blessing same-sex unions, (Montreal, Ottawa, and Niagara) Niagara has launched totally un-Christian lawsuits against parishes there who have voted to leave and join the Anglican Network.

    There is pressure in other areas as well to approve same-sex blessings. The Primate of Canada, archbishop Fred Hiltz has certainly not come out in opposition, in fact, if I were to give an opinion, I would have to say he is probably in favour of it.

    So I would have to disagree. I believe what’s happening in New Westminster has a great deal of support within the rest of the ACoC.

    Anyone interested in following events in Canada from the ‘conservative’ point of view can find more information, among other places, at my own blog, as well as Here… and Here…

  14. Stefan says:

    I live in Vancouver. We’re following what’s going at St John’s Shaughnessy closely, and praying for them.

  15. Matt says:

    So…who wants to join the committee that moves on suspending J.I. Packer

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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